Tuesday, September 21, 2021

XC Colorado Road Trip - Part 1 - NC to Colorado Springs

My wife Kris and I took a 19 day road trip this summer to Colorado and back. This 4 part post series and the photos (and a couple videos) are from our journey.

Part 2 - Crested Butte

Part 3 - Telluride

Part 4 - Salida to NC

Ever since my daughter and I did a road trip loop together in Colorado last summer, I wanted to have my own Toyota 4Runner and mountain bike out there to play in the mountains. Kris and I treated this trip as an experiment to see how we would do together on such a long trip. We were very compatible travel partners, no fuss, and really enjoyed the journey together. I see some tweaks we can make for future road trips such as taking along our dog, a couple of inflatable SUPs, and a bike for her. 

Part 1 is our drive from NC to Colorado Springs, CO. We stopped first at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and did a cave tour. Then we drove through southern Illinois, visited the Gateway Arch National Park in St Louis and saw the great Mississippi River, drove through Missouri, visited friends in Kansas City, drove across the open Kansas plains via I-70, then stopped in Colorado Springs and visited the Garden of the Gods Park. These were all things and places we had never seen or visited before. We would then pick up our sons at the Denver airport so they could join us for the main Colorado portion of our trip.

Read on for more commentary amongst the photos...

On our way to Mammoth Cave National Park, we made a quick stop in the Daniel Boone National Forest to see the Natural Arch (within Natural Arch Scenic Area). It's a short walk from the parking lot. There is another longer trail that takes you to the bottom of it but we didn't opt for that and instead got back on the road.

We made an online cave tour reservation several days in advance for Mammoth Cave National Park. That was a good thing because sure enough, they were sold out of that day's tours when we arrived. Here is the entrance to the main cave as part of the Historic Modified Tour (2 hrs long).

It was probably close to 90 degrees outside that day. The cave temperature inside was about 54 degrees. It felt good but was definitely cold...I put on a long sleeve shirt.

These are old candle smoke markings that date back to the 1800s.

We had to get through some narrow (and short...I had to duck a lot) passageways during the tour.

This was a short hike outside the cave...we saw several deer that didn't flinch at all with the humans walking around.

We stayed at the Lodge at Mammoth Cave. It was a simple room. The food at the restaurant there was just ok.

The next morning, we got up and drove west, through southern Illinois (Illinois & Colorado had the most expensive gas prices during our road trip), then into St Louis. This was our first time to St Louis and the Gateway Arch National Park. We found inexpensive parking nearby the Gateway Arch in a parking garage on the corner of Olive St & N Fourth St...and had a good lunch at nearby Pickles Deli.

There is lots to do here. We did not have reservations to take the elevator train ride to the top and it was sold out. But we did tour the underground museum which was pretty cool and very informative. I could have spent more time there learning the history of the area and of the arch itself. There are plenty of walking trails here plus you can walk down to the Mississippi River and walk there as well.

We then drove to Kansas City and stayed with our friends Brian, Stacey, and their daughter Katie. Katie was college roommates with our daughter their freshman year in college. Wonderful hospitality at their home and we had a fantastic dinner out at Viona's Italian Bistro in Overland Park.

Driving west across Kansas on I-70. Lots of open plains and farmland. It was interesting that each small town we passed had a small oasis of trees in that area. Otherwise, not a tree to be seen.

Lunch at Fuzzys Taco Shop in Hays, KS...a local regional chain. We tried to get into downtown Hays for something more locally owned but road construction prevented us from doing so. It would have massively delayed our arrival into Colorado.

We didn't have a lodging reservation in Colorado Springs but lucked into this last minute available small A frame at an old lodge & campground in the Manitou Springs area near Garden of the Gods Park.

Garden of the Gods Park - free and lots of trails to hike and take in the beautiful views.

We thought about driving up to Pikes Peak but that requires a fee and a shuttle, and Garden of the Gods was easy, closer, and free. Maybe we'll do Pikes Peak another time. After our morning walk around Garden of the Gods Park, we then drove to the Denver International Airport to pick up our two sons.


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